Research Article: GOTHiC, a probabilistic model to resolve complex biases and to identify real interactions in Hi-C data

Date Published: April 5, 2017

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Borbala Mifsud, Inigo Martincorena, Elodie Darbo, Robert Sugar, Stefan Schoenfelder, Peter Fraser, Nicholas M. Luscombe, Mark Isalan.


Hi-C is one of the main methods for investigating spatial co-localisation of DNA in the nucleus. However, the raw sequencing data obtained from Hi-C experiments suffer from large biases and spurious contacts, making it difficult to identify true interactions. Existing methods use complex models to account for biases and do not provide a significance threshold for detecting interactions. Here we introduce a simple binomial probabilistic model that resolves complex biases and distinguishes between true and false interactions. The model corrects biases of known and unknown origin and yields a p-value for each interaction, providing a reliable threshold based on significance. We demonstrate this experimentally by testing the method against a random ligation dataset. Our method outperforms previous methods and provides a statistical framework for further data analysis, such as comparisons of Hi-C interactions between different conditions. GOTHiC is available as a BioConductor package (

Partial Text

Hi-C is a high-throughput technique based on chromosome conformation capture to detect the spatial proximity between pairs of genomic loci [1,2]. It is now routinely used to study the three-dimensional folding of genomes [3–7]. In theory, a sequenced Hi-C read-pair should directly represent an interaction between two loci, with the number of mapped read-pairs corresponding to the frequency of interactions in the sample cell population. However, two challenges must be resolved in order to extract the true signal from Hi-C data.

Sequencing libraries produced by Hi-C experiments are noisy because of technical artifacts (self-ligations and random ligations) and complex biases caused by the intrinsic characteristics of the genome sequence (GC content, unequal distribution of restriction sites, uniqueness and mappability of the sequences). Here, we have proposed a simple solution to analyze Hi-C data using a binomial test, which successfully removes artifacts and sequencing biases to detect real genomic interactions even in the noisiest Hi-C datasets.




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